When Brendan Rodgers left Swansea City to take over at Liverpool in the summer, I would think the last thing he imagined was that when he welcomed his old club to his new one in mid-February, he would be below his former charges in the Premier League table.
It probably wasn’t just Rodgers who thought that, but the reality for the Liverpool boss is that as Swansea travel to Anfield on Sunday for this rearranged league match, the club he left in June are looking down on the Reds and this was not meant to be in the script for either club.
Michael Laudrup, Rodgers’ replacement, was generally deemed to be a gamble appointment and the combination of a manager untried in England and the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ was supposed to see Swansea struggle to recapture the form that saw them comfortably finish in mid-table under Rodgers.
What rubbish. Swansea are seventh in the division and have the small matter of their first ever major cup final next weekend when they face Bradford City in the Capital One Cup at Wembley, having beaten Liverpool at Anfield en route.
Laudrup could hardly have done a better job. Rodgers, on the other hand, is in the middle of a difficult run that he needs to snap out of, and sharpish, if the wheels aren’t going to come off Liverpool’s season.
Sitting ninth and out of both domestic cups is not a good showing and with the Reds having it all to do in the Europa League after a desperately poor result against Zenit, their season is in grave danger of petering out before February has even ended.
Forget the guff about promising displays against Arsenal and Manchester City – they yielded just two points. Liverpool are now in a run of one win in seven, where at least two goals have been conceded in six of those matches.
So it goes without saying that after the 2-0 defeat to West Brom in their last league match, I am reverting back to my policy of looking at a quote of 57/100 on Liverpool at Anfield and wondering when Jeremy Beadle is about to jump out unannounced.
And the only thing that is stopping me from backing Swansea at 9/2, and then backing them again, is what is happening next weekend.
No matter what Laudrup says, all eyes are now on the date at Wembley: it is basic human nature. If you were a Swansea player, would you really go full throttle into the 50-50 challenge at Anfield and risk missing the biggest game of your career?
Laudrup may well rest players, too. If you were the Dane, would you really risk Michu getting injured? The former Getafe boss has rested the Spaniard in the past and the Swans obviously lack attacking threat when he is not on the pitch.
So I think Swansea could well be distracted, and what I am going to do is back under 2.5 goals at 23/20, as there are enough reasons to think this is a knocking bet.
Whenever the Swans hit the road, they forget to pack the goals. There have only been 22 goals in Swansea’s 13 away league fixtures, easily the fewest of any team in the division, and recently their away matches have hardly had a goal to speak of.
There have only been eight goals in their last eight away games in all competitions, with the results going 1-0, 0-0, 1-2, 0-2, 0-0, 1-0, 0-0, 1-0.
As you can see, Laudrup’s men have failed to score in six of those matches, but their away defence is the meanest in the Premier League, with just ten goals conceded in 13 matches, and never more than two in a single match.
Ten of their 13 away trips have seen two goals or fewer and I don’t see what will change when they pitch up at Anfield.
Swansea will play the same way they always do, and if Daniel Sturridge doesn’t make the starting line-up Liverpool could toil through another performance.
And let’s not forget that Anfield could get edgy if an early breakthrough isn’t forthcoming, with Reds fans beginning to wonder if the recent run is a blip or an indication that the Rodgers experiment is fatally flawed.
To add further strength to the case, this fixture has a record of few goals. In fact, Liverpool have failed to even score against Swansea since their promotion last season, with a pair of goalless draws accompanying a 1-0 win for the Swans on the final day of last season.
This match could follow that trend, and I’ll be on that 23/20.